Born in Birmingham-United Kingdom and bred in Benin City-Nigeria, Andrew Uyi Ogbomoide, better known as Drew Uyi is a fine blend of both worlds. In fact, it was in the ancient Nigeria city where he started his elementary schooling that he first initiated a natural instinct for people management and branding while still a teenager.
“To be honest I could hardly remember Birmingham as a toddler. I came to Benin City when I was barely three going to four years. I remember Benin City and it was a very interesting time for me living in a big house. There were a lot of family members and many house helps. I was pampered for real. There were lot of stuff from the United Kingdom (UK), to play with and I did my Nursery and Primary School in there.
“I grew up in a Catholic home and became an altar boy at a point. I was very close to the priest. In fact, I would have been a Reverend father, but obviously, when I left Nigeria to complete my secondary school in Germany, I was distracted, but if I had stayed in Nigeria, I probably would be a priest. Benin City-Nigeria was quite eventful with good memories for me.”
FROM BENIN CITY
Recalling the Benin incident that fired his passion for sport management and branding, Uyi said: “This is what I was born to do. I see it more like a purpose than a career. From my early age just before I left Nigeria, I had a short spell with Edokpolor Grammar School Benin City. When I was dropped every morning by my parents I see young boys training already before classes. So, I always admire them and I thought about representing them. I see a lot of talented young Nigerians who do not have the opportunity to do well because they lack adequate funding, encouragement and could not go for trials abroad. At this point I wanted very much to speak for them, to advocate for them.”
That thought and dream gave life to a path that Uyi pursued vigorously from that moment. By the time he left secondary school, he was already ripe to walk his dream into the University.
“Before I got into University, I have done a lot in the area of organizing matches. I was one of the guys behind the Unity Cup that was played in the UK, between Nigeria and Jamaica in 2004. I did that for about four years. That was the competition that Obafemi Martin’s played his debut for Nigeria. So, I have been in the space for a while. I was doing events and club promotion. I was supporting in concerts and I already had experience. I also got did certification HND in Advertising and Marketing. My goal then was to study Sport Management, but by that time, that was the closest to what I could get to Sport Management.”
Though his parents wanted him to study Medicine, he had his own ideas convinced that his ways were clearly spelled out for him.
“Funny enough, after completing my high school in Germany, I came to England- my place of birth. When I got admission into University, I actually told my dad I was studying Sport Science which was close to Medicine, but I was admitted for Sports Management and Event. I chose to study that because that is me. I’ve always wanted to manage people. I’m a people’s person. I like to represent and advocate for people.
Uyi is today a super agent; one of the most influential FA football licensed agents in the world. “I have worked with a couple of players. I was instrumental to Kayode Olanrewaju’s move- his loan move- from Shakhtar Donetsk to Turkish club Gaziantep F.K. I have worked with the likes of Odion Ighalo, Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses, and Shehu Abdullahi. I look forward to contributing my own quota to Nigerian football.”
It was Uyi who facilitated the 2018 Pepsi endorsement for Super Eagles trio of Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses and Odion Ighalo.
In entertainment, Uyi has worked with some entertainers among them Ayo Makun popularly known as A.Y. “I’ve worked with A.Y to create a great brand for him. People are looking for opportunities, that’s why branding is very important. I’ve worked with A.Y closely. His brand is so big that he has used it to help his brothers and friends. He has used it to push people.”
CHANGING THE NARRATIVE
Built like a player himself, the FA licensed football agent, is on a mission.
“I am here to change the narrative, I am here to change the game, I’m not settling for less.”
He’s convinced that he could change the narrative of Nigerian and African players, help tem create a lasting brand, change their attitude towards branding and get them more endorsement to make life after football, more comfortable for them.
“First and foremost, it is important for me to educate and empower our athletes most especially changing the narrative of football management or agency in Africa by educating our players about endorsement and athlete branding. I have championed that since I have been an agent. I educate them personal branding, how they should position themselves because I believe that your brand value can enhance your market value. I have positioned myself not just as a football agent but as a model and as a commercial football agent-agent with a plan. I believe agent it is more than just signing the contract. I think the most important thing on a player’s career is their brand. Brand is what they can leverage on after their career. Players have a short window to play. By the time they are 40 years or less, they can’t play again, yet they have many more years to do things.”
UNDERRATED AND UNDERPAID
Uyi is saddled with the reality that African players are underrated and underpaid compared to their counterparts abroad.
“I do think that African players are underrated in Europe. I think apart from being underrated, they are underpaid, that is why I emphasize on branding. You should brand yourself well, position yourself well, you should earn as much as you are supposed to ear. Compared to their counterparts from South American or the Europeans, they earn far less. If you put two players together and you see what they earn, I think African players are really underrated.
“Because most times, their agents are not really working for the players, they are working for the clubs more or less. And you will see someone like Wilfred Ndidi, a player of his class and quality should be worth three times what he is earning now. But what can I say? We hope things will improve in the future. African players need to know where they stand, they need to get the right people around them and don’t limit themselves.”
With a good agent with flare for branding, he said Nigerian players will perform better at their craft. “Footballers have to focus on their football, while their agents, their representatives, their management and team take care of stuff- off pitch. There is a lot to be done outside the pitch, so you need capable hands because if you rely on maybe like your personal assistance or put it in the wrong hands, you will regret it at the end of your career”
Uyi equally challenged Nigerian sports managers to create enabling environment to market and brand their athletes.
“In Nigeria I don’t think we’ve got it right in terms of management. Nigerian footballers don’t have the right team around them. As a footballer, you should have at least, if you are professional, if you are playing in a good league, you need like three or four people that will be sitting down with you for you to leverage on your brand. If I should tell what footballers are missing out, a lot of them will not sleep at night.
“One single footballer can change the fortune of a town by using his influence alone to create enough jobs, facilities and do a lot for that community. The problem in Nigeria is that out of 10,000 players only one can make it out. So, the few that make it are under pressure. That is why they need a good team to take the pressure off them. They just need to focus on their football. They don’t need to be checking their messages in Instagram or whatever.”
Commenting on the allegation of bribing of managers to get their players into the national teams, allegedly levelled agaiAnst football agents, he has this to say. “I would always advocate for the best players to be selected. I stand against injustice. So in terms of bribing the manager, I don’t subscribe to it. I think what agents should be doing is to position their players, make sure their players are playing well; they are playing in a good league, you know, or making sure that the manager or coaches see their players by providing video clips. There are things you can do, but bribery, I don’t think bribing is the right thing.”
Short of calling Uyi a workaholic, he partially unwinds on the golf course while still talking business and making contacts.
“Unwind? I think I will unwind when I have retired. I unwind on the job, I’m working 24/7, and I’m always thinking of the next move, you know, how to help my people because I think we are behind, we are way, way behind. It’s not easy to work with talents, they are special species, and you need to invest time. But if it’s what you are called to do, you have no choice, I have a passion for what I do. I unwind on the job, except I’m sleeping. If I go and watch a football match, I don’t even watch the game, rather I’m thinking of commercial opportunities in the stadium. That’s it really.
“However I play golf whenever I can get away. Golf also helps me to socialise and talk business at the same time.”
No even his family, he said stand between him and work. “My family, they know that I’m so passionate about my job and don’t bother me at all. Nobody gets in my way. They just allow me be. At home, I’m a private person. When I’m with the family, I’m with the family. So, I still have time with my family. Even though there’s is no way you can have family time entirely, you know, I still do businesses there somehow, but it’s all good,” he added.
SHORT & SHARP WITH DREW UYI
Ahmed Musa brand has really taken him far. He’s got a lot of endorsement in the north and very influential. The governors want to speak with him and they all want to work with him. Musa has been given a lot of gifts like land and property just because of his brand; People want to associate with him. So, in situations like that, for you to get, you have to give, it’s a simple philosophy of life; you give to get. So when you start your branding, you have to give and then you get, but what you get in return is so much that you cannot even imagine.
I think there should be a lot of investment in sport development, and we should partner more with the private sector more than the government. I think what they really need the government for us for policies; policies that will favour sport, policies that will put sport in a better position, for instance, the betting companies, should be contributing to sport.
Can players brand themselves on their own? I will say no! They cannot, it’s not advisable. I will not advise that. Reason being that they should focus more on their job which is train, eat, and sleep. They should have a routine, and then leave the job for a professional, for a branding strategist that can do the job for them, that can harness all the opportunities that they see around.
Nigerian youths are doing pretty well. They are very hard-working. The ones that are committing cyber crime are minute. I work with young Nigerians; I have worked with the like of A.Y. (Ayo Makun). I know if Nigerians have opportunities, they won’t go into cyber crime. I know a lot of talented youths. Nigerian youths should be given the opportunity to excel in football. Footballer is a generational blessing. It’s a game changer.
Sport branding, athlete branding cannot be overemphasized. It’s so important for athletes, even the clubs they are playing for, they do a lot of partnership, they want to push the club because it is business, and football is business. If the clubs can take it as business, why won’t players take it as business? For every business to succeed, it needs to have a brand. Branding is what will stick to them after their playing career. This is what will create opportunities and benefits for them.
I tell footballers, get married early, try and marry somebody that is educated, somebody that is smart, somebody that can push for you that can take the stress off you. The connection there is that, the enlightenment is not there, the education is not there, that’s why I have dedicated myself for the past three years; I’ve been in the forefront of educating our people because the truth of the matter is Africans need branding more than the Europeans. For African players when the music stop playing it’s over, when it’s over, it’s over, when you hang those boots, the kind of attention you use to have will just go from ten to two or zero. So, you have to take advantage when you are playing.
When it comes to African footballers- it’s all about education, education. You have to educate them, they have to know because they don’t see what other people are seeing because football is so demanding, and it is unfair for the players to be thinking about something else aside from football. So, that’s why you need the right people around them.